You may not have noticed but there was a shift in the world the day my mother died. It was all very well and good for her; she wanted to go be with Jesus. She sat in a lounge chair and Dad held her hand as he read a book. After a while he looked up to check on her. She had a smile and a wide-eyed look of excitement on her face as if someone special had just come through the door. But she didn’t answer when Dad spoke to her. She was gone.
There was a shift in the world that day for me because I had never known a world without my mom in it. It felt like descending the stairs in the dark, expecting the last step onto solid floor, but it was missing, and my foot dropped suddenly. Someone who had always been there suddenly was not.
Mom suffered poor health most of her life, but she did what she could and prayed for her family and nine grandchildren every day. She was a super-efficient woman with high standards. I was used to her doing all the thinking and planning. When she died I had to grow up.
I’m the grandma now, but I am not my mother, nor are my grandkids her grandkids. I learned from her and am very thankful for the heritage she gave me, but I do some things differently with her great-grandchildren. I have access to a lot of things she didn’t via internet and since the Lord has granted me health and a vehicle (in mom’s day a lot of women never learned to drive) I can go visit them and help care for them when their parents need help.
A couple of weeks ago as I drove home from my Dad’s place I passed through a forest that burned down when I was a child. Trees cover the mountains now, but only to half the height of the old burned trunks. Further down the road another devastating fire took out miles and miles of forest on either side of the road a few years ago. I cringe when I go through there now. I used to love to roll down the windows and breathe deeply the scent of pine and fir and spruce and cedar as I drove in flickering sunlight. The road cut like a narrow canyon between giants trees. It used to be such a wonderful place.
On this last trip the wonderful smell was again replaced by the acrid smoky scent of the death of more forest. I rolled up the windows and popped a stick of peppermint gum in my mouth. Another fire in the back country sent its gray harbinger of loss into my beautiful valley. I drove grimly homeward.
This week the forestry department announced intent to do prescribed burns. As much as we hate them forest fires are a natural part of a healthy ecology in this part of the world. Fire releases seeds from hard-shelled cones. It allows light to penetrate down to the earth and encourages new growth and species. Old growth forests are magnificent, but if the dead wood and debris on the forest floor is not cleared out regularly, fuel for mega-fires builds up. Younger trees growing in the shade of giants stay small and burn easily. Dry dead or diseased trees can actually explode in high intensity wildfires. They contribute to the dreaded crown fires with their own whirlwinds of flame and intense heat that jump rivers and leave scorched earth. Intense fires can go underground and smoulder for months.
Sometimes a forest needs to die in order to live. For a tree-hugger like me seeing a tall lush tree that sheltered birds and animals replaced by a branchless pole is like mourning the death of a loved one. I don’t like this kind of change being thrust upon me. I want to be able to choose when I will open the gate to change. I know I procrastinate clearing out the deadwood, but I plan to get around to it eventually.
Procrastination, alas, permits fuel to build up for major conflagrations. Some ways of doing things, like dead branches on the forest floor, no longer serve a purpose. Some unhealthy things, ignored too long, can suddenly burst into flame and bring down entire institutions we thought would last forever.
Letting go of habits and traditions and rules and regulations that inhibit growth can feel devastating. We want to protest, “But we’ve never done it this way before.” Ideally some of the big trees in the forest survive a low intensity fire and continue to give shelter, but sometimes, in the course of renewal, we face loss of the familiar. We can no longer rely on the way we’ve always done things before.
It’s called shift.
But when the light reaches the forest floor again something new springs to life. We mourn, we let go, we move on, we grow.
The Lord takes away, but in time, he always restores, and it’s always good.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:9)
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19a)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2Corinthians 5:17)
And he who was seated on the throne said,
“Behold, I am making all things new.”